By Sergio M. González,
Doctoral Candidate, Department of History University of Wisconsin-Madison;
Arnold L. Mitchem Fellow Marquette University
As a doctoral candidate based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying the history of Midwestern Latinos, the first question I typically hear from new colleagues when I describe my research interests is, “There are Latinos in Wisconsin?” My geographic location as well as my research interests has at times left me feeling on the outskirts of Latino academic communities and discussions. This past spring, however, I had the opportunity to meet new colleagues from around the country as a graduate fellow at the 2016 American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education National Conference. The fellowship and mentoring I experienced through AAHHE has been instrumental in connecting my academic work and advocacy for Latinos in higher education with those of colleagues around the country.
I first learned about AAHHE from my colleague Jorge Moraga, a doctoral candidate in American studies at Washington State University and a 2015 AAHHE Graduate Fellow. Jorge and I met as fellows in the summer of 2015 at the Smithsonian Latino Museum Studies Program where we were both drawn to the opportunity to work with Latino graduate students from around the country interested in expanding the curatorial and archival mission of museums. Throughout our five-week residence at various Smithsonian museums, Jorge and I continually discussed the need for a supportive, engaged mentorship structure for Latino students interested in pursuing careers in higher education.
My interest in attending the 2016 conference and becoming a member of the AAHHE community began with my desire to join a network of scholars who are invested in building a responsive and supportive community for Latinos throughout higher education and particularly for young Latino scholars. Like other AAHHE academics, I center my research within the world in which I live both at the micro level in the community I reside and at a much larger scale within public policy debates that affect broader society. I was drawn to AAHHE because of the call for fellows and scholars as agents of change for improving education to better enable Latino students to fully participate and engage in their communities, their classrooms and their workplaces. My AAHHE mentor, José “Pepe” Aguilar-Hernández, serves as an assistant professor of ethnic and women’s studies at Cal Poly Pomona. He has proven to be a shining example of how to best ground rigorous and purposeful academic research within the communities in which we work and live.
The opportunity to attend the 2016 AAHHE National Conference as a graduate fellow provided an excellent opportunity to grow as a young academic scholar and as a community advocate. While I work toward finishing my doctoral studies and recovering the histories of Midwestern Latino communities, I look forward to continuing to work with my cohort fellows and mentors who are committed to making higher education more effective in meeting the needs of Latino students and a continually changing American demography. •